2 June 2016 by Sarah
Steve Butler, Curator at Seized! the Border Force National Museum, is blogging for us today on his tour of Altea II, a huge ship purchased by Border Force, which is used to train its officers in how to safely search every part of a commercial vessel:
“I may have worked for many years for the Border Force museum but it is meeting the front line officer which is so memorable and one of the unique pluses of my job. Recently I visited a training ship in Liverpool Docks called Altea II for a tour of the vessel guided by a senior instructor and long serving Border Force officer.
“Colin has many years experience in working in Customs and now Border Force and was once part of the customs cutter service. He has probably visited most ports around the UK coastline aboard a patrol vessel in search of the smuggler. Now he trains officers from both the UK and overseas in how to safely search every part of a commercial ship.
“Altea II was a mid sized bulk carrier which plied the seas in search of mixed cargo from building material, animal field and general cargo. Operating in seas in the northern hemisphere including Iceland, Nordic states, Russia and called in at ports around the UK. Once bought by Border Force is was adapted to offer real life experience of a commercial ship and how to search it.
“When I boarded the vessel it was as if the former Russian crew had just left the vessel. Crew’s cabin still presented soaps and shaving equipment placed on shelves around the sinks, posters still hung on the cabin walls, sea boots and overalls were slung on bed side cabinets. Books, novels and instructions manual, still lined the shelves adjacent to port holed walls. The bridge offered spectacular views across the Mersey to New Brighton and sea charts and national flags were neatly rolled in cupboards beneath first aid cabinets and barometers on panelled walls.
“The hold was vast, now empty except for a special built coffer dam which was stained in red colourant. Why the staining? Colin explained the use of a life like dummy which would carry ‘injury’ and require safely rescuing from inside the coffer dam. This would often be practised in near black out conditions with trainees dressed in cumbersome breathing kit, essential clothing when searching dangerous confined space aboard a ocean going ship. The morning tour and chat with Colin was captivating as he calmly described the dangerous search of ocean going tugs and yachts concealing tons of class A drugs. It is why I do love my job and our unique collection and stories we can share.”
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